Category Archives: Child Abuse

Revising the Statute of Limitations in New York and Other States is the Right Thing to Do


No one can say that Margaret M. Markey hasn’t tried.

The New York State assemblywoman has been laboring in vain since 2006 to change the way that the Empire State has remained maddeningly negligent in facing a pressing need, articulated last May by the Queens Borough Democrat

Last spring she wrote to constituents:

“I held a series of informational events in Albany earlier this year to bring to the attention of Governor [Andrew] Cuomo and my colleagues in the Legislature to the wide-ranging problem of child sexual abuse in society.

“We looked at the recent revelations in the world of sports and learned about abuse in schools and institutions. We heard one of the state’s leading prosecutors speak about how current statutes of limitations in New York State need to be changed in order to bring justice to victims.
“A panel of legal experts spoke about the change that is taking place across the nation where other states are facing up to the challenge of providing justice and punishing perpetrators and those who hide them. My Child Victims Act of New York seeks to update our laws regarding this crime.

“Our New York State statutes of limitations are so lax that many perpetrators evade exposure by waiting out the short statute of limitations. I want to change that because pedophiles who are not exposed will continue to abuse yet more children in the future.”

She then urged readers to sign an online petition to help speed the cause.

Fast forward to a Jan. 2, 2013 story in the New York Daily News. The piece is about how, in the wake of revelations about possible decades-long cover-ups of alleged pedophilia at a Brooklyn, New York, prep school, Markey is insisting that the statute of limitations be dropped altogether in New York rather than being merely expanded.

The Daily News piece notes: “Current [New York] state law requires survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a case by the time they are 23 years old. Previous versions of Markey’s Child Victims Act would have extended the deadline by five years.”

Making the deadline age 28 still would’ve been comparatively unfair. The fact is that a victim of pedophilia in Washington or Oregon has much longer to bring legal action than does a similar victim in New York, to say nothing of other states that provide relatively brief time periods before statutes of limitations expire.

It should be noted that the notion of “statute of limitations” usually is subject to what is called “tolling.” As a practical matter, tolling typically means that a victim’s statute “clock” time doesn’t start until after he or she reaches age 18. In New York, victims have just five years to seek justice for first-degree offenses. Other states like Washington and Oregon provide survivors more time to bring forward with a civil claim for sexual abuse.

Is New York the worst in this regard? Scarcely. The statutes in North Dakota and Tennessee provide victims reaching age 18 just one year to seek legal action. In Indiana and New Jersey it’s only two years.

Some would ask why these statute times are so important. I would ask them to remember what their lives were like when they were 18 years old, when much of the world was still very mysterious, when they were absorbed in issues relating to reaching adulthood, when peer pressure for so many reasons may have been at an apex in their lives.

Then, for those who have been fortunate not to have endured sex crimes when they were children, imagine what your frame of mind might have been if you had? Would you, at age 18, have had the emotional wherewithal much less the means and familial support to seek an attorney?

More likely, as we who deal with this know, it would have taken more time, more maturing before you would have become emboldened to bring such an abuse case to authorities.

And that, of course, is really all that Margaret Markey and those of us who support her are asking for: More time.

Our attorneys are highly experienced in childhood sexual abuse law and offer free initial consultations to potential clients. We are also willing to assist other attorneys in sexual abuse cases. Please call 206-257-3590, or email us directly. Conversations will be kept confidential, and even if you are unsure about a lawsuit, often we can direct you to the assistance you need. You will be treated with compassion and respect.

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